Remembered for establishing and leading the Mexican Symphonic Orchestra, this well-known conductor also had a successful career as a composer, producing a popular, percussion-heavy piece titled Sinfonía India. Also a journalist, he wrote for nearly forty years for Mexico City's El Universal newspaper.
He began his career by composing Romantic piano pieces; later, he wrote ballet works and symphonies.
Following the Mexican Revolution, he composed several Aztec and Mexican-nationalist-themed ballet pieces, including El fuego nuevo.
He and his six siblings were born into a Mexican family of Creole heritage. His father, Augustín Chávez, was an agricultural inventor of some renown, and his grandfather, José María Chávez Alonso, had governed the Mexican state of Aguascalientes.
His successful ballet, H. P. (also titled Caballos de vapor), was influenced by the work of fellow composer Igor Stravinsky.